The England manager Roy Hodgson has insisted his young squad has got what it takes to lift the World Cup this summer.
But officials in the Home Office appear not to share his confidence. Before a ball has been kicked in Brazil, they think it is all over.
According to an analysis by Theresa May’s department, there is a high likelihood of England being knocked out in the tournament’s group stages and the national team has virtually no chance of reaching the semi-finals.
Its gloomy forecast came in a report analysing the impact of extending pub opening hours during the World Cup on drink-fuelled crime and alcohol sales.
It said: “While England are certain to be playing in the matches in the first period, there is a high probability that they will not be playing in the later matches.
“To account for this, we have used odds from Betfair, implying that England have a 54 per cent probability of progressing past the group stage and an 11 per cent probability of progressing past the quarter-finals, allowing us to estimate the expected benefits.”
The Home Office rushed out a contrite statement soon after its downbeat prediction emerged. It said: “The Government is of course 100 per cent behind the England football team and we wish the players every success in the World Cup.”
But the shadow Home Office minister, Lord Rosser, told peers that it was “good to know what the Government thinks of England’s prospects.”